Conserving Biodiversity

Restoring Native Habitat of the Endangered Lion-tailed Macaque, Macaca silenus in the Western Ghats rainforests

The lion-tailed macaque, Macaca silenus is listed as Endangered (EN) in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The current free-ranging population consists of 4000 individuals living as sub-populations in 47 fragmented forest pockets (Singh et al. 2006). The total number of  individuals is less than 2,500 with no sub-population having more than 250 individuals. Currently, their numbers are continuing to decline in 20% of the free-ranging population.

 

Target taxa and critical habitat

The endangered lion-tailed macaque is endemic to the critically endangered Western Ghats Montane rainforest eco-region recognised as one of the 34 Biodiversity Hotspots of the World. The greatest threat to the survival of this arboreal primate is the fragmentation of their rainforest home range (Kumar et al. 2008) that borders the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Factors such as conversion of its rainforest habitat into private plantations and agricultural land, high levels of pressure due to the exponential increase in human numbers, and the continual harvest of timber and non-timber forest products has led to the lion-tailed macaque’s home-range and food sources decreasing at an alarming rate.

To conserve this species, it is crucial that its natural environment in the Western Ghats be protected.

 

The conservation problem?

Currently, there are not many conservation projects that focus on the restoration of

rainforest habitats in the Western Ghats in the state of Karnataka. While there have been several wildlife studies conducted over the past three decades on ecological issues of these rainforests, there is a dearth of published information on habitat restoration and reforestation of lion-tailed habitat areas.

Aaranyaa’s objective is to collaborate with local non-profit organisations such as the Tropical Research Development Centre (TRDC) and the Life Trust to initiate habitat restoration in degraded habitats outside in and around the Western Ghats rainforests in Uttara Kannada. This habitat restoration programme is aimed at improving the quality of and bridging pockets of degraded forest habitat by creating migratory corridors for the lion-tailed macaque and other species. Forest corridors such as these, will provide males with the opportunity to emigrate from natal groups to join new troops. Since this species of macaque is only found in the Western Ghats, improving habitat quality by thickening the forests and adding food species found in the region could help save this primate from extinction. Our objective is to improve habitat quality conserve lion-tailed macaque and their home range.

References

Singh M, Krishna B A and Singh M 2006 Dominance hierarchy and social grooming in female lion-tailed macaques (Macaca silenus) in the Western Ghats, India. Journal of Biosciences 31: 369 – 377.

Kumar A, Singh M and Molur S 2008 Macaca silenus. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.1.